You’ve been targeted for Termination (#SFWApro)

THE TERMINATOR (1984) is without question a great little film. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Biehn appear naked in separate bursts of lightning and almost immediately show their personalities (Ah-nuld kills some punks to get clothes, Biehn avoids fighting the cops as much as possible). Then Schwarzenegger, as the cyborg Terminator is off trying to alter the future by killing every woman in LA named Sarah Connor, which really upsets Linda Hamilton as that’s her name… and before long, she and Biehn are running from an adversary who can’t be stopped, negotiated with or intimidated. This is one of the few where I’m seriously torn where to put it in the book: it clearly qualifies as a Love Across Time story, but ultimately it’s going in the Trying to Change the Future section, though unusually it’s the bad guys who are trying to change things. And it turns out the future doesn’t change: both the Terminator and Biehn’s Kyle are actually creating the future they came from. “Do I look to you like the mother of the future?”

TERMINATOR 2: Judgment Day (1991) picks up 12 years later with Sarah in jail, rebellious son John in foster care and Joe Morton using fragments of the Terminator tech to create the first artificial intelligence. And then, despite the assurances the time-travel was a one-time deal, we get another Schwarzenegger Terminator arriving, plus the far more dangerous T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a shapeshifting, unstoppable killer of liquid metal. This time out it’s the good guys who are trying to change the future by averting the creation of the Skynet AI; director James Cameron considered an ending showing Sarah as a grandmother (proving the future had truly changed) but (or so I’ve read) decided that if the future is malleable there’s no guarantee it would stay Skynet-free, so he dropped the ending. This is a spectacular action film, but I’m not sure the twin plots (survive T-1000 and destroy Skynet) quite mesh; on top of that, the scenes with John trying to teach the Terminator human slang and feeling are as cliched as My Future Boyfriend. Still, the merits outweigh the flaws by far. “I know now why you cry—but it’s something I will never do.”

Watching TERMINATOR 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) immediately after T2 makes me unfortunately aware how much it mimics T2 without surpassing it: good and evil Terminators, outcast John Connor, car crashes and car chases, clashes between Schwarzenegger and the Terminator of Doom (Kristanna Loken) who’s out to eliminate John and his lieutenants. In this film, the machine-ruled future has so much inherent strength that it’s inevitable, so only the details can be changed (no explanation how the Terminator knows this). As Skynet here isn’t based on Morton’s research, this has me wondering—if Morton had built his AI does that mean doomsday would have happened earlier for instance? And the logic is fuzzy in other ways—how did Skynet release a computer virus before it was even online? Not bad, but not up to its predecessors. With Claire Danes as the future Mrs. Connor. “Drop your weapon—and the coffin.”

TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009) is not only free of time travel (so it’s consigned to my appendix) it’s free of quality. Set in 2018 during the war against the machines, it has Christian Bale looking absurdly grim as John Connor (almost like he’s imitating himself in the Batman films), who’s merely a grunt rather than a leader (I suspect it’s so the film can use the usual cliches like setting John up against hardcase superior Michael Ironside). The special effects look like Transformer leftovers, the setting is generic post-apocalypse and the story is annoyingly sexist: as Danes’ replacement, Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t do much but worry and supposedly kickass freedom fighter Moon Bloodgood serves mostly to be rescued or act emotionally as the plot calls for. A lousy finish (thank god I have the TV series to turn to!) “We’ve been at war before either of us even existed.”

5 Comments

Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel

5 responses to “You’ve been targeted for Termination (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Time Travel: Fixed and frozen? (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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